It doesn’t take a genius to understand why budding watch collectors would want to find the cheapest Rolex Models.
If the world of luxury watches were a jungle, Rolex would be the apex predator.
Sure, there’s no shortage of other well-regarded Swiss watch brands, like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, whose watches have a similar list price.
But no matter how well-made (or expensive) those other luxury timepieces may be, none can match the cultural coolness that’s baked into Rolex’s history:
The best James Bond, Sean Connery, wore a Rolex Submariner, as did real-life style icon Steve McQueen.
Paul Newman opted for the Rolex Daytona, which his favorite stuntman later wore in an attempt to break the sound barrier.
For scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), only the Rolex Milgauss could withstand the strong magnetic fields they encountered.
Hell, even the first man to summit Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, did it wearing a Rolex Explorer. (At least that’s how Rolex tells it; there’s more than a little bit of debate among watch historians.)
So it’s no surprise that Rolex remains in high demand more than a century after Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis founded the famed watch brand.
And considering the hefty retail price tag that accompanies them, it’s equally unsurprising that you might want to find the most affordable option.
The good news for anyone who wants to add a grail piece to their watch collection is that, while there’s certainly no such thing as a cheap Rolex timepiece, some models are more affordable than others.
To help you grow your Rolex collection without having refinance your house, in this article we’ll break down the cheapest Rolex watches on the market.
(With, again, the relatively huge caveat that the price range for any legit watch bearing the name Rolex is going to be fairly high.)
What’s the Cheapest Rolex Watch?
Breaking Down the Most Affordable Rolex Watches on the Market
(Well, this is Rolex, so it’s more like the most “affordable,” but you know what I mean)
- What’s the cheapest Rolex?
- How much is the cheapest Rolex?
- How to Save Money on a Rolex:
- The (Other) Cheapest New Rolex Watches
- The Cheapest Used Rolex Watches
- Where to Buy Cheap Rolex Watches Online
- Why is Rolex so expensive?
- Is a Rolex a good investment?
First and Foremost:
What’s the cheapest Rolex?
Prices can vary, but generally speaking the cheapest Rolex watch is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, which has a starting price of around $5,000 if you’re buying new, but can sometimes be found for cheaper if you don’t mind buying a used model on the pre-owned market.
(Scroll down to learn about the ins and outs of buying a used Rolex.)
And the Next (Obvious) Question:
How much is the cheapest Rolex?
That depends. The Oyster Perpetual line includes a variety of models with different dial sizes and color options, as well as different materials for the bezel and bracelet, all of which can have an effect on the price.
Below are a few tips that will help keep the price down when shopping for a Rolex.
How to Save Money on a Rolex:
Opt for an Oyster Bracelet
In order to keep the price down, your best bet is to opt for the Oyster bracelet, as opposed to the Jubilee bracelet.
The Jubilee is a little more elegant and sophisticated, but it’s also more expensive. (Gear Patrol put together a good breakdown of the two, if you’re interested.)
The Oyster Perpetual only comes with the Oyster bracelet, so this one’s easy. But if you opt for another model, keep the bracelet style in mind.
Size (Sorta) Matters
Similarly, smaller sizes are less expensive than larger ones, but you want to be a bit careful here.
Buying a 34 mm Oyster Perpetual might help you save a couple hundred bucks, but if you have big forearms and usually wear a 40 or a 42 mm case size then it also might look kind of silly.
Stainless Steel Case
This one’s probably a little more obvious, but worth saying outright:
If you want to keep the cost down, avoid the precious metals.
Again, if you’re sticking with the Oyster line this will be easy, since they exclusively use the 904L stainless steel Oyster case (about which more below).
But if you decide to branch out and try another model, sticking with stainless steel will help offset some of the price.
Rolex’s authorized dealers usually add a little bit of markup on the price, so you might have some room to negotiate them down.
But the keyword here is some. As you can imagine, Rolex doesn’t exactly give these things away for free to their dealers, nor do they look kindly on dealers who markup the price too high.
If you’re a good negotiator you might be able to talk certain dealers down a little, just keep in mind that there’s probably not a ton of wiggle room.
The (Other) Cheapest New Rolex Watches
While the Oyster Perpetual is the cheapest Rolex for men (the smaller case size versions also make it the cheapest womens Rolex), there are a few other affordable models worth considering.
As with the Oyster Perpetual, it’s worth noting that prices for these models can vary depending on the specific features, materials, and market demand, so consider the prices listed below as rules of thumb rather than exact MSRPs.
But, in general, these models represent some of the most affordable Rolex watches if you want to go a level above the Oyster Perpetual.
Starts around $6,500
The Rolex Air-King is a classic aviation watch that is known for its simplicity and durability.
It has a starting price of around $6,500 and features a stainless steel case, an Oyster bracelet, and a time-only dial.
It features a mechanical self-winding movement that Rolex calls the caliber 3131.
Entirely developed and manufactured in-house by Rolex, the 3131 features several innovations designed to improve accuracy and reliability, including a power reserve of approximately 48 hours and a Perpetual rotor, which winds the mainspring of the watch as the wearer’s wrist moves.
Starts around $6,500
A sporty watch designed for adventure and exploration (as you probably could have guessed from the name), the Explorer also starts around $6,500.
It’s got a stainless steel case, an Oyster bracelet, and a time-only dial with luminescent hour markers for easy visibility in low-light conditions, in addition to some water resistance.
Though it’s not technically a dive watch, it’s water resistant up to 330 feet (100 meters), so it can easily handle a trip to the beach.
Starts around $7,500
A timeless classic that’s known for its elegant design and versatile style, the Datejust is a little pricier, and starts at about $7,500.
Unlike the models above, it’s available not just in stainless steel, but also a combination of steel and gold, and comes with the option for an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet, as well as a date complication on the dial.
Starts around $7,500
As mentioned, smaller sizes of the Oyster Perpetual can work quite well for women, and are definitely the most affordable option.
Beyond that, the next best option is the Rolex Lady-Datejust, which starts at $7,500.
Like the Datejust, it comes in either stainless steel or a steel-and-gold combo (including rose gold), with options for a Jubilee or Oyster bracelet, and has the date window on the dial.
The Cheapest Used Rolex Watches
While the models above represent the most affordable way to buy a brand-new Rolex, the best way to get one for cheap is to dip into the secondary market, and pick up one that was previously owned.
This might sound like a funny comparison, but in my opinion, buying pre-owned Rolex watches is actually quite similar to buying used cars:
There’s risk involved, sure.
But if you know what to look for and buy from a reputable dealer, it ultimately leads to much better value than if you bought a brand new model.
Buying used is probably your best bet if you’re looking for some of the really high-end collections, like the Rolex GMT-Master II or the Submariner, and really the only option if you’re looking for specific vintage models.
But if you had your hopes set on scoring the same Submariner that James Bond wore, don’t expect to score a deal.
In recent years the black dial Rolex Submariner ref 6538, aka the one that Connery wore in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger sold at auction for more than $500,000.
Where to Buy Cheap Rolex Watches Online
Though it may seem a little counterintuitive with something this expensive, buying the Oyster Perpetual (or any of the other “affordable” Rolex models listed above) online actually makes a lot of sense – if you know where to look.
And that’s a big “if”.
Fake Rolexes abound, and I’m sure there’s no shortage of scammy websites pretending to be authorized Rolex dealers, which are actually selling cheap knock offs.
If you’re shelling out this much money online, you want to make sure that you’re buying from a reputable, Rolex-approved dealer.
Fortunately, there are a small handful of sites that fit the bill, where you can find both new and used Rolexes that are authentic and legit.
Here are two of the best places to turn if you want to buy a cheap Rolex online. Both of these outlets are Rolex-approved dealers with solid reputations for providing authentic products and helpful personal service.
Jomashop is a trusted and Rolex-approved online dealer that sells a variety of luxury goods, including Rolex watches.
They offer new, pre-owned, and vintage Rolex watches in a pretty wide variety of styles and price points, which means you’re more likely to find the watch you’re looking for at a price that fits your budget.
They guarantee the authenticity of all the products they sell, and have a team of experts who authenticate every watch before it’s sold, so you can be sure you’re getting a genuine Rolex.
Plus, they provide a 2-year warranty on all new watches and a 1-year warranty on pre-owned watches, in addition to a 30-day return policy that gives you time to examine the watch and decide if it’s right for you.
Bob’s Watches has been in business for more than 20 years, and has a solid reputation for trustworthiness.
Like Jomashop, they have a team of experts who authenticate and service every watch before sale, and offer competitive pricing that’s often lower than other authorized dealers.
They even have a price-match guarantee, so if you find the same watch for a lower price elsewhere, they will match it.
Another big advantage that Bob offers is transparency:
They provide detailed information and photos of each watch on their website, so you can see exactly what you’re getting before you make a purchase.
And they give you a detailed condition report and a money-back guarantee, so you can feel confident in your purchase.
Why is Rolex so expensive?
If even the “cheap” Rolex options still seem like too much to spend for a watch, trust me when I say I hear you.
For some budding collectors, understanding what makes a Rolex so damn expensive helps make the price tag (a little) more palatable.
There are four main reasons why Rolex watches tend to cost more than other brands, including a lot of other luxury Swiss watches:
- Limited Production
Let’s break each factor down in more detail.
As alluded to in the introduction above, Rolex is one of the most recognized and respected brands not just in the watch world, but in the entire world.
Sure, the brand has built up a reputation for precision, durability, and timeless style, all of which contributes to its perceived value.
But when you combine all that with the fact that Rolex has been worn by some of the world’s most intrepid explorers and coolest cultural icons, the result becomes a brand that’s as enviable as it is expensive.
Rolex uses high-quality materials in its watches, such as 904L stainless steel, which is more resistant to corrosion and harder than other types of steel.
They also use precious metals, including white gold, yellow gold and platinum, in addition to other high-quality materials like sapphire crystal, all of which add to the cost.
(Although it’s worth noting that they only switched to sapphire crystal in 1978, which is why you can sometimes find a vintage Rolex model that uses acrylic crystal.)
Distinctive Design / Craftsmanship
Each Rolex watch is meticulously crafted by highly skilled watchmakers, who spend a ton of time assembling and testing each component.
Every Rolex watch has an automatic movement, also known as a self-winding movement, which means they rely on the movement of the wearer’s wrist to wind the watch’s mainspring and power the watch.
While there are plenty of other automatic watch companies out there, no one invests as much time and energy into ensuring they get it right.
Rolex frequently invests large sums of money in research and development to improve the performance and functionality of their watches, which is a big part of the reason why they’ve been so sought after for so long.
Rolex produces a limited number of watches each year, which adds to their exclusivity and desirability.
The brand is also extremely selective about who it allows to sell it.
This careful control of its distribution channels allows Rolex to maintain its premium pricing, and ensure that its watches are only available through authorized dealers.
Is a Rolex a good investment?
It’s certainly tempting to tell yourself that a Rolex is an “investment” rather than a splurge, but it’s important to keep in mind that buying a Rolex purely for investment purposes is not a guaranteed way to make money.
As mentioned above, the value of a Rolex watch can go up or down depending on various factors, such as market demand, condition, rarity, and provenance.
So if your goal is to maximize your return and get great value for your money, you’d probably be (much) better off putting the same amount of money in a low-cost ETF.
But with that said, there are some factors that make Rolex watches attractive to collectors and enthusiasts, which can help them grow in value over time.
The prestige factor/brand reputation that I mentioned above certainly help, as does the (also aforementioned) rarity of the model.
The older and more vintage the Rolex, the more likely it is to appreciate in value.
Vintage Rolexes from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s are highly sought after by collectors, and can command high prices at auction.
But the condition that the watch is kept in also plays an important role in helping it maintain its value.
Rolex watches that are well-maintained and in good condition are generally more valuable than those that have been heavily used or poorly cared for.
The other big factor is provenance. If you somehow manage to score a Rolex with a well documented history or connection to a famous person, it can garner big bucks (as the James Bond example mentioned above illustrates).
But these types of finds are exceedingly rare, and usually require you to put up huge sums of money just to acquire the thing, which makes scoring a lucrative return fairly difficult.
Overall, a Rolex can potentially be a good investment, if you do your research and understand the risks involved.
But you’d probably be better off thinking of a Rolex not as an investment, but as an invaluable statement piece.
You should buy it not because you want or expect to make money, but because you appreciate its design, craftsmanship, and history (and don’t mind letting other people know you appreciate them too 😉).
If that’s the case, then a Rolex is the perfect choice.
More Resources ↓
More Men’s Watch Advice and Recos from Irreverent Gent:
- In-Depth Watch Gang Review
- How to Wear a Pocket Watch
- How to Wear a NATO Strap Watch
- Timex Weekender Review
- In-Depth Jowissa Watch Review
- In-Depth Undone Watches Review
- The Most Stylish Watch Boxes for Men
- The Best MVMT Men’s Watches
- The Cheapest Rolexes for Men
- The Best Affordable Watch Brands for Men
- The Best Smart Watches for Men
- In-Depth Vincero Watch Review
- The Best Watch Subscription Boxes on the Market